The future of the remote work industry

I've been working remotely since 2014. I was familiar with coworking, remote lifestyle and digital nomads a few years before that though - saw coworking offices popping up in central London around me.

Back then, coworking offices were mainly tailored to freelancers living in the city. They weren't nomads, and they weren't working remotely for sure - they were bouncing between in-office teams as a contractor - like me - or had a particular skill that required spending offline time with businesses around the city. The coworking offices were their pads where they spent time between two meetings or two assignments.

Since I started working remotely, I also started to notice the trends of the nomad industry - businesses that were targeted for those who wanted to work remotely. As always, the first-movers were the snake-oil sellers - those who were selling the dream. If you are working remotely, I bet you met at least one who told you how to live by a beach, while making money online. Then came the real businesses, selling services to those who embrace remote working, freelancers and companies alike.

Providing solutions for a fragmented new market

Because startups were the first who embraced remote working - mostly because of the budgetary benefits - selling to them was also done on a smaller scale. It was inevitable that the services were fragmented: establishing coworking offices and coliving hubs, helping to organize remote retreats, providing recruitment services to find remote talent or even "landing out" full teams of freelancers, and providing professional education on how to really work remotely.

Though these services and solutions are robust and it is fantastic to have them - they won't be the future of the remote work industry.

 

The future of the remote work industry

By Peter Benei

 

The future of remote work is in the benefits

Buffer did an amazing survey-research, the State of Remote Work 2019. There were many great insights in that research - please make sure you read the whole. I was particularly interested in two insights - the first was highlighted by Peter Fabor, founder of Surf Office. In a nutshell: though people now can work remotely, they are not working from a beach with a laptop on their lap or from some fancy coworking office. The stunning majority of them work from their homes. I'm also one of them by the way - I rarely work from a coworking office, and I genuinely hate working when I travel, it messes up my focus. Peter correlates the narrow market for coworking offices with the increasing demand for free coworking offices - less and less remote workers would want to pay for a desk. I think he is right, but he argues it is because of the will of the remote workers, as it is up to their decision.

The second insight which I found particularly interesting is how companies treat their remote employees. They don't treat them as employees at all. According to the Buffer study, remote companies rarely compensate for the costs of working - office, infrastructure or coffee. Remote retreats, travel insurance or any medical insurance, is not in the survey questions at all.

My immediate question is: how do we expect remote employees to pay more for remote services - coworking, education, gear or work infrastructure - if these payments cannot be reimbursed back to their employers. And I understand most of you would also say instantly: hey, we are freelancers, freedom to work anywhere comes with the opportunity to work with anyone as well. At least, as freelancers, we earn a comfortable living, we can take care of ourselves. I would say that is partially true: according to the same study, 67% of the remote workers earn less than $100K per year. From that, you can, of course, pay for everything by yourself - but it is not how a long-term career works.

The future is in global employment, not in remote work

I do believe that the way we work is fundamentally changing - remote working is just the start of it.

In the next couple of years, global employment will become increasingly common - big companies will not just 'allow home office' and ‘cooperate between regional offices’. They will genuinely embrace working with employees all over the world. With that, benefits & reimbursed costs will come - coworking offices will be switched to coworking complexes.

The line between a freelancer/contractor and a full-time remote employee will be blurred entirely. As global employment will become the norm, more and more industries will offer not fragmented, but comprehensive solutions for the new needs. Like what you see with fintech companies today, with their solutions to provide bank accounts for business and freelancers anywhere? Imagine the insurance or credit companies of tomorrow. The first ones are already here, offering their services for those who live a global lifestyle.

This change will be accelerated by those who enter the job market not by switching their office job to remote work - but by starting as a remote, global employee from day one.

Those companies who take their employees seriously, those who offer not just a remote work, but a global employment opportunity - will become the leaders of tomorrow.

 

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My name is Peter. Welcome, I’m glad you are here. I help companies to amplify their messages, create meaningful conversations, and scale up their business fast. My passion is remote business - I can help you to build, launch and grow your distributed company.

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